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The wondrous world of research

I am currently engaged in writing a Regency romance novel — placed in Ireland.  This has produced all sorts of wonderful complications I hadn’t quite anticipated.

I figured initially that what I needed were plenty of facts of what was going on in Ireland at the time.  I had some idea — in fact that’s why I picked Ireland in the first place, aside from the fact that it’s beautiful and I loved it when I saw it for the first time last year.  During the Regency period, things were relatively quiet there — which makes it much easier to have a reasonably convincing HEA.  I mean, if you know the whole place goes up in smoke 3 years later, it’s a little tough to be enthusiastic about your loving couple launching out on the future.

If there is one.

There was a major rebellion in 1798 — okay, I’ll start after that.  The Great Famine struck in 1846 — okay, I can live with that.  By that time my protagonists will be getting along in years a  bit, and anyhow they were Anglo-Irish and they weren’t the ones really starving, although it does dent a HEA a little to realize it takes place while the tenants and villagers are dying in droves all around you.  Presumably being older helps.

So I had that stuff firmly in mind.  Where I find I need to pick up scraps of information (which are a lot harder to find) is answering such esoteric questions as “could you get married rapidly or did you have to have banns called — 3 Sundays worth of them?” or “how long were the leases by which your tenants were responsible for pieces of your land?”  Luckily in the RWA community there are all sorts of knowledgeable people, and I am continually astounded by how much other people know.  But I tend to discover my ignorance in the middle of a paragraph, which is why my manuscript is littered with swathes of XXXXXXXX and more XXXXXXXXXs, as I discover what I’m going to have to fill in.

Is research a piece of cake for everyone else?  Or are all of you fine ladies writing out of your own encyclopedic store of knowledge?  Anybody struggling along with me?


8 Responses

  1. You’ve now pegged why I don’t write historical romance! LOL too much research.

    Last night, I exchanged emails with a NTY best seller author who needed help with a pregnant character (pregnant with demon baby.) With 17 years in OB, I answered her questions about body changes, drugs, etc. (but I have to admit…as far as I know, I have never been involved in the birth of a demon baby so I had to play a little fast and loose with that element.) This is actually the second or third time I’ve helped an author with a pregnant character.

    You are right about one thing…RWA is full of wonderful helpful people!

  2. Well, the research (I thought) would be the fun part. Sitting around reading books and feeling completely justified to sit on the unmade bed reading them. But then it’s the little stuff that turns around and zings you!

    But the knowledge some of my fellow writers have completely overwhelms me, as they trot out the answer to some esoteric question (not always historical) as if everyone knows how long a body would float or what share of her husband’s estate a widow would have in 1830.

    And should one of my characters give birth, I know where to go!

  3. LOL I agree with Cyndi! Historicals = lots of research. 🙂 But I still struggle with you Beppie. Research is never easy, but I’ve loved learning new things about different places. I wish the process went a little faster though. Tired brain here. Thank goodness I don’t have any experiences dealing with most of the situations in my stories. I shiver at the thought!

  4. I loved writing historicals because I enjoyed that researched. learning about that whole era (sorry, I stayed in the UK–will be of no use to you!) was extremely fascinating. I have several books on my self.

    BUT it is very, very frustrating. I have some researching to do for a trilogy coming out in 2012 that I need to start on soon. I am dreading it. Will I find it interesting? YES. I’ll enjoy what I learn but I fully anticipate to struggle through it while finding all those details I need to know.

  5. Well, for me the devil is in the details. If I could just predict at the outset what I’m going to need to know! Instead what I have are vague memories of having seen something somewhere that if I’d known was going to be important I would have noted the source . . . .


  6. Good post, Beppie. Historicals do take a lot of research. Modern day romances take research too but not as much as historicals. I will be researching my next novel next month. It can be a long process sometimes. Cyndi, that author’s story sounds awesome! 🙂

  7. I’m not big on research. Though when I researched the revolutionary war, I kept reading the information instead of trying to find what I needed! I got so sucked in.

  8. Abigail, there is the fatal hitch. It is so easy to get caught up and keep reading. (That’s also where you pick up miscellaneous pieces of information that you can’t remember when you need to know where you found them!)
    And Jamie, you’re right about contemporaries needing research too. My last WIP was set in Nevada and had way more about horses than I’d expected — and of course none of what I learned is much use in current WIP because almost everything about riding changed over the years and from the Old World to the New. Except riding on the back of the horse. That’s still the same . . .

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